Social must be integrated into your marketing mix: John Lee interview

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Published Feb 13, 2014 | Written by Eric Swain

Do you share links to your website or blog and wonder why no-body clicks on them?

John Lee, Head of Social Marketing at Webtrends (update: John is now a Brand Strategist at Twitter), offers some great insights for B2B marketers on how to you get your content noticed in amongst the 500 million tweets a day.

John, regarding your blog post on this subject, did it come about as a result of some research that you’d done or just observations you’ve made over the years?

It’s a little bit of both – we’ve done a lot of research in terms of looking closely at our own social channels and finding out what really leads people to engage and repeatedly engage – so not just that “first click” but what makes that click more meaningful in the long term. And also, we’ve been able to look at other industry leaders, particularly in B2B digital marketing, and to look at what kind of patterns they’re seeing; it seems to be a trend that’s pretty consistent across the industry.

Okay, so let's discuss the very first reason that people don’t click on links?

I think that before we even get into really specific reasons why people don’t click on your tweets, I think the foundation is that your content really does not matter. In social media it doesn’t matter who you are, and it doesn’t matter what you’re sharing; that in itself is not enough to get a click from most of us. It’s really about how you post things, and how you as a marketer view the promotion process. What I mean by that is as soon as you start to think that your own content is amazing - which I think a lot of marketers tend to do: we fall in love with it as we create it - then you set yourself up for failure at that exact moment. You start assuming that ‘hey, if we just tweet this out, we have so many followers, people will engage, we’ll get some great reaction to this’ and you get lazy. You think that simply posting something, or just tweeting something is enough to make someone care - and that’s really not the case. So that first reason that people don’t look at your content is your process.

Although a lot of brands like to say they are totally integrated, as a marketing organisation, that’s not always the case. Social media is treated as an add-on, or an afterthought, or in a best case scenario as being in a silo. You may have a content creation department in your group that comes up with this great asset, or maybe you have an event coming up that you want to promote registration for, and what often happens is once that whole creation process is done, they drop it on the social media team’s desk and say ‘hey, can you make sure you tweet this out,’ - and then they get upset a week later, when no-one’s clicking on that link and no-one’s registering for the event.

Oh wow - you have just described the very scenario that I was faced with this week. Someone asked me to help them do exactly that - they’ve got an event in three weeks’ time, and I said look, this just isn’t going to work.

In a best case scenario you’ll come up with an amazing tweet that gets some attention, but long term it’s not sustainable, and I think there’s a couple reasons for that. Number one is that as a social media team you’re thinking beyond an individual tweet. You’re looking at your entire promotional mix across social platforms, your day’s worth of content, your week’s worth of content, even your month’s worth of content, and so to just drop in one branded tweet doesn’t really make sense. You’re looking at how people are engaging: the patterns and the content that you’re sharing, and what really makes sense. Beyond that, if someone just gives you a piece of content to promote, your knowledge of that piece of content is fairly limited. They may give you a brief, they may walk you through why it’s important, but it’s still not as instinctive for you to really understand its value for the end user, and that’s really what it comes down to. The promotion cannot be focused on what your brand thinks; the focus always, always, always has to be on the value that it delivers to the end user first.

So what would you suggest the marketing team, or the company as a whole, should do in order to avoid this sort of scenario, where they’re just dumping something on the social team and saying ‘go!’

I think the best thing you can do is to integrate your social team into your content planning meetings; put your social team in the context of your demand/lead generation teams. From there, they’re going to understand the goals that you as an organisation have in terms of driving business, which is really what it comes down to, especially in B2B. The key question is: ‘can we create marketing-generated leads?’ and social media plays a huge role in that, so the better they understand those processes and those goals, the better they’re going to promote your content. And the second thing, and this is really for the social team members themselves, is that you need to really think ahead. You need to be focusing on ‘hey, if this asset is coming out in two weeks, I need to start preparing for that now. What content am I going to put in advance a week or a day in advance, that’s really going to set the stage for this piece of content when it does actually become available?’

The promotion cannot be focused on what your brand thinks;

the focus always, always, always has to be on the value that it delivers to the end user first.

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. It’s really about plugging social into almost everything that you’re doing - throughout your marketing mix planning or your advanced content calendar planning or whatever it is you do. Always keep social as part of that discussion in that ongoing planning process.

Yes, and I think for smaller businesses or agencies that don’t have separate teams, it’s more about the mindset, with which you approach social. In my experience of smaller companies, social tends to be just something to check off your list, so ‘hey, we’ve done x, y and z, now we need to make sure it’s posted to our Twitter, our Facebook, our LinkedIn,’ almost just to say that you’ve done it.

Yes, so that new blog post just goes out with ‘check out my new blog post!’ and the link. I’ve seen too many of those…

There’s that fundamental assumption that people will care about your content just because it’s you, and the reality is that’s usually not the case.

Okay, so that’s number 1. Our process is wrong, we need to make sure that we build it in better, thinking of it all the time. What’s the next one on our list?

Your tone. Social gives you an opportunity to be very conversational, very direct, and that’s great, but again, the focus needs to be on your user, so it’s not just about tweeting ‘I have this new blog post!’ That’s great, but nobody cares. What can you pull out of that blog post that would make someone actually want to click through? To get really practical, look at the piece of content itself and decide what is the main highlight; rather than write your tweet as a headline, bring out your lead in your tweet and make that tweet itself a useful piece of content. So if you’re sharing a statistic, make sure that statistic is in the tweet. If you’re giving something away, say the article was 5 tips to help you do something, then share one of those tips directly in the tweet; don’t make your user click through. A lot of the time if you look at the way users are accessing your content, particularly in Twitter, your brand content exists alongside their friends’ tweets, a celebrity’s tweet, a consumer brand’s tweet; all of which typically are more interesting than a B2B tweet. So you really have to acknowledge the fact that your user is distracted and has other things they want to focus on.

Rather than write your tweet as a headline,
bring out your lead in your tweet and make that tweet itself a useful piece of content.

I think that’s really interesting because we often talk about, how the headline is so important - like if you’re sending an email or if you’re even creating a blog post, that headline is what gets them to click through and to look at it, and to read your content. But you’re saying – even deeper than that headline - get one of the salient points within that post and use that as the tweetable bit of content.

Yes, the reason for that is when you start to use tweets as headlines, you’re using tweets as an endpoint: trying to drive just that click. You’re trying to get someone to a landing page, to a blog post, and that’s your overall focus. However, if you’re making the tweets themselves useful, showing that key information, you’re treating it more as simply a touchpoint in an ongoing relationship with your user.  And that’s really where social thrives  - if you can create positive experiences with every touch, your user will slowly, but consistently progress along their journey in terms of engaging with the brand, whereas if your focus is on just getting them through to the next page; that may be your only interaction with them.

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Published by Eric Swain February 13, 2014
Eric Swain